Year of the Spectre - Episode III:
"Harvest Dusk"
Page 3

"RULE THE PLANET"

      As they scratched their heads and tried to put out the fire, a dark figure with glowing green eyes rolled his fingers across a fine mahogany desk only fifty yards from the Spectre-Slayers.  Each finger stuck with adhesive to the desk as he rapped them across the wood causing a series of tearing and sticky sounds.

     “Well, the interlopers seem intent on continuing their assault,” he noted aloud.  “Neither my initial display of non-hostility, nor standard swarm tactics has had the desired effect... and now nearly 98% of my city maintenance crew has been wiped out.  Perhaps a change of strategy is in order.”

     A lone mummy with an accountant’s visor looked up from its desk and moaned at Phasmus inquisitively.

     “What do you mean, `am I addressing you or just talking to myself?’  Didn’t you read my article in Fortunefiend 500?  The best CEO’s think aloud!  Besides...it will further the plot in my biography and thus will read more smoothly than suggested thoughts....just in case someone decides to tell my story some day.”

     The fiend behind the desk shrugged, lowered its visor, and went back to punching sticky numbers on its old-fashioned calculator; paper rolling and printing with every keystroke.

     “Flooding the catacombs seemed to work well last time these ridiculously misguided flesh things invaded my peaceful home.  Fiends don’t breathe and a good corridor wash keeps the levels of filth to acceptable efficiency standards.  However, my mummy always suggested that business comes before pleasure in even the most dire of circumstances, and I did manage to turn the last Pureblood encounter into a lucrative venture.  I’ve been looking for a means of playing this Spectre card anyhow.  Why wait to ruin GAVAL’s Christmas when I can just blackmail him here and now?  The interest rates are expected to plummet over the fall anyway.”  Phasmus’ green eyes grew brighter as he pointed to the ceiling in personal satisfaction.   “Very well, business!  Mmnng!  Get me an audience with the head Slayer!  We have something to discuss!”

     The Tapefiend adjusted his tie and shirtsleeves in an awfully menacing executive fashion, then grinned.

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     The Spectre-Slayers ran towards the final corner of the Catacombs where the green light was emanating.

     “Good idea putting the fire out with Curly and Larry!” complimented GAVAL as he shook spam off of his Jungle Boots.

     “People just don’t realize what a good drawbridge-slash-fire extinguisher meat by-products can make,” informed the New Zealander as he adjusted the oxygen flow of a flame thower's pilot light.

     “GAVAL!” cried Sasha as she stopped in her tracks and looked down a side corridor.

     “Sasha!” retorted GAVAL as he continued to run in the direction of the green light.

     “There’s a side corridor we missed here.  Shouldn’t we check it out to protect our rear?”

     “You and Jude check it out!  I have a date with adhesive evil!” cried the Cajun as he rounded the corner with a leap and an “evaahl!”

     Jude frowned and stopped jogging.  “Great!  Now we miss all the good stuff!  There’s nothing down there, Sasha.  You’re always getting in my damn way!”

     Sasha stooped over and shined a light towards the end of the small dark corridor that went 90 degrees left from the main route.  “I didn’t ask you to stay, GAVAL did, asshole.  Go if you wanna go.  I’m watching my friends’ back.”

     “Then you can watch your own, hick!”  With that Jude turned towards the green light and marched off angrily.

     As she proceeded down the corridor she came to a dead end.  Sasha turned around about to head out, but then noticed a man-sized fissure she had missed on their initial pass. Taking off her smoke hood she slowly leaned into the fissure and peered inside.  Her eyes grew large with fear as she spied two bright green points of light growing out of the darkness glaring out at her.

     Instinctively, she launched a stake between the creature's eyes. Her aim was true... but this TapeFiend didn't fall as the others had, and it struck with unexpected speed. A writhing mass of adhesive tendrils was wrapped around her face before she had a chance to scream.

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     GAVAL was the first to arrive at the green light, but the only thing he found there was disappointment.  Sitting in the corner, plugged to a standard power outlet was a Lava lamp with green bubbles floating up and down.  On a sign made of multicoloured masking tape above them were the words, “Nngh and Mrrgph’s Groovy Corner of Equity and Mayhem.”

     “What is it?” asked Marco as he lowered his revolver and took off his smoke hood.

     “Tapefiend Café,” GAVAL scowled.  “Ah hate that mummy.”

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     “Your attention please." a low, resonant voice called out of the darkness. "You are all guilty of breaking and entering, trespassing, destruction of city property and necrocide in the first degree. All present members of the ASG are guilty of first degree contractual violation."

     The group fell silent as the primary TapeFiend walked forward. He held the young Slayer Sasha, struggling, wrapped and gagged in a sticky gray adhesive cocoon under his right arm. He glowered at the slayers... but his gaze finally rested on GAVAL.

    "Greetings and Death to Evil, etc, GAVAL!” said Phasmus in a cheerful tone.

     GAVAL turned around and glared at Jude accusingly.  If looks could kill...  “The Great Holy War is long over, Phasmus, and your status as a Quasi-Evil Duct-Tape Enshrouded Living-Impaired Person-Like Allied Entity has long-since been revoked.  I’d advise you to stop using our old slogan and surrender our girl unharmed,” instructed GAVAL in angry but concise words.

     "Tell the others to go," Phasmus said in a disturbing and calm voice.  “We have business to discuss.”

     “Put her down Phasmus! I don’t negotiate wit EVAAHL!  AHHH!” GAVAL yelled in response as he took a cautious step forward.

     Phasmus's eyes narrowed and Sasha shuddered in pain.

     “The damage I am currently inflicting on this Slayer-ling would be fatal to a non-rushed human. Tell the others to go."

     GAVAL paused for a moment, wondering just how far Phasmus would go. He turned and motioned for the other Slayers in Training to return to the surface. “Make sure they make it out safe, Lothos.  And find out why dat one wasn’t wit’ Sasha like I tol’ him.”

      They hesitated, unsure if this was still part of the training exercise, before quickly dispersing at GAVAL's second, more urgent, command.

      After the other Slayers had gone GAVAL turned back to Phasmus. He spoke slowly... virtually hissing, "Let her go, Phasmus...Ah’m not gonna ask you again, me."

      The TapeFiend shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't do that quite yet.  I am being more than generous by not eliminating you and your murderous underlings where you stand, you see. It would be well within my rights to do so. Besides, we still have business to discuss... and it seems I can't trust you unless I have a bargaining chip of some sort."

      Something in the way Phasmus said 'trust' made GAVAL snap. He rushed forward with inhuman speed. He just barely managed to skid to a halt as Sasha's muffled scream pierced the air.  She now hung limply under Phasmus's arm.

      Phasmus looked calmly at GAVAL's shocked face. "She is still alive. Try something like that again and she won't be. A simple enough concept, I hope."

      "She's just a kid!" GAVAL yelled with increasing rage. Despite Phasmus's threat, GAVAL required a great deal of concentration to keep himself from charging again.  The effects of his tainted Rush were winning slowly, and his eyes started to glow a dim and distinctive lavender colour.

      The TapeFiend nodded in satisfaction, "Indeed, and a good thing too. If she were much stronger I'd have to hurt her a great deal worse to keep her safely wrapped."

      GAVAL seethed and hissed through his teeth, "Let. Her. Go. NOW!"

      "Why did you raid my Catacombs, GAVAL?"

      "Let her GO!"

      "What do you know about Plague-Sever, GAVAL?"

      "LET HER GO!"

      "How did you get your Rush back, GAVAL?"

      "LET HER GO YOU VILE UNDEAD WAD OF FILTH!"  His eyes were now glowing brightly.  The shotgun in his left hand was squeezed and crushed beyond usefulness from the surge of strength the horrible tainted Rush brought him.  The pain was worse now than it had been last time he made himself Rush but he showed little sign of the agony and dropped the gun, reaching for a pair of rune-covered stakes.

      Phasmus sighed, "You can't get something for nothing. I've asked you three simple questions. Answer them and I will release her immediately."

      GAVAL growled menacingly.  The animalistic threat he voiced wasn't a sound commonly made by humans.

      "I would advise you to hurry... I believe you've killed all of my strongly necromancy-based minions in the local sector. She could loose the Rush at any time. If she does, she will die."

      "It was a training mission!" GAVAL hissed, his eyes flaring brighter that Phasmus's.

     Phasmus nodded slowly. "All my poor little minions... murdered... for a training mission." Phasmus lamented with disturbing sincerity. "All they ever do is work to make Irvine a nicer, stickier, place... And there you go, mercilessly slaughtering them... While they aren't even fast enough to flee effectively." He made a low, sad, gurgling sound before continuing, "Living creatures are so cruel." He paused a moment and quickly resumed his fiendish mannerisms. "Go on then, a training mission to what end?"

      "To train for killing the Plague-Sever Spectre." GAVAL replied as if explaining a very simple concept to a young child.

      "Ah, naturally... revenge, then, is it?"

      At this point Sasha seemed to be regaining consciousness. Her eyes flickered open. They still glowed blue with the Rush, but they were much dimmer than they had been before. Phasmus discretely loosened his hold on her.

      GAVAL kept his gaze fixed on the TapeFiend, the object of his rage, "The thing's gotta die!  And so do YOU!"

      "You don't know anything about it, do you?" the TapeFiend asked irritably. "It's just another evil creature to be slain in your eyes... with a bit of personal stake in the matter as well, so to speak."

      GAVAL scowled, "It's killing people! It..." the ex-Slayer stopped in mid sentence and asked suspiciously, "Why do you care about the Spectre anyway?"

      Phasmus grinned fiendishly and simply responded, "I can't have dangerous, unauthorised necromantic beings floating around my city, now can I?" He continued, "Now, so you and I and your little friend here can get on with our respective lives and unlives... Why can you Rush again?"

      GAVAL remained silent. Something was telling him to attack now while his opponent was at ease. Only the frightened, confused, tape-slathered face of Sasha served to hold him back.  She didn’t know about his Rush and would notice his glowing eyes any second if she hadn’t already heard Phasmus question.

      Phasmus's grin vanished and he narrowed his eyes. As he began to press his question into the Slayer the last of the Rush left Sasha and her body was forced to deal with the full crushing constriction of the TapeFiend's tendrils. She writhed weakly before passing out again.

      The look of pain on her face was sufficient persuasion for GAVAL. "NIGHTEYE!" he screamed at Phasmus. "I made a deal with him..."

      Phasmus looked stricken. His eyes dimmed to dark green points in his writhing face. His tendrils withdrew from his hostage, leaving her resin-soaked body on the cold stone floor.

      "You..." the TapeFiend hissed, his voice barely audible over the sound of his tendrils writhing madly, "Sold out... to Nighteye?"

      GAVAL simply sneered back in response, as he began to move forward to pick up Sasha.  Phasmus stared at him silently as he picked up his stricken apprentice and began to back away.  GAVAL's sneer was replaced by a near-fiendish smirk.

      Phasmus's glare intensified and he twitched and writhed, "You don’t negotiate with evil, eh?  At least you get a benefits package when you sell your soul to Phasmus & Co!  How could you..."

      The TapeFiend was interrupted as a Death-Night staff, enveloped in unholy black flame, connected with the back of his head. Caught off balance, the TapeFiend flailed madly before falling face first to the floor.  Lothos stood behind him grinning wildly, spackled with adhesive resin.

      Handing Sasha to Lothos GAVAL growled with glowing eyes, “Leave us. Get her to Mu.  It’s time to deal with this one.”  Lothos grinned and twirled his staff like a baton as he walked out with the girl in his arms.  He knew GAVAL would be fine alone in the Catacombs.  He was born to deal with those types.

      “Now I have a bit of business for you,” GAVAL said with a grin as he raised a stake to bring down on Phasmus head.

      “Tell me, traitor…is your woman - your Rachel - worth the kill…the taste of vengeance?” sputtered  Phasmus.  Thick, gooey resin was leaking from the top of his head, down between his dimly lit green eyes.

     GAVAL hesitated for a moment.  “No more discussions, Phasmus.  This stake will be doing the rest of my negotiating.”  He raised the stake again, but Phasmus kept doing what he did best.

     “You will bring the Spectre back to me alive or the next time you see her she’ll be liquidated…I will see to it that you lose her.  Forever.”

     “You’ll never have the chance to give those orders!  Get your filthy tendrils near her, or anyone else.”  The stake came down and dug deep into Phasmus’ neck.  GAVAL twisted the stake a couple of times and pulled the stake out of the side of the TapeFiend’s neck, ripping half of it away.  Resin oozed out into a puddle on the floor and Phasmus’ arms, legs, and tendrils went limp.  They had been trying to surround GAVAL’s limbs but his brute strength ripped them like tissue paper every time they went taught around him.

     The TapeFiend writhed.  Between this newfound strength and a pact with Nighteye, GAVAL was no longer a known quantity.  Phasmus was more than content to let the Slayer believe he had won… and take a slightly more diplomatic approach to things.

     “The...order was given weeks ago…arrangements have been in place for some time, GAVAL.  If anything happens to me...she will become one of us...”

     “Your reign is over.  There’ll be no one left to carry out your silly orders,” GAVAL grinned fiercely as he ripped out another third of Phasmus’ neck with the blunt end of the rune stake.

     “Cells...I have cells around the country...she is as good as dead.  You think you can save her by destroying me?  She is as good as ours…if you don’t comply.  To say nothing of other… repercussions… my demise would entail.”

     GAVAL hesitated at the thought.

     “You cannot... protect her forever.  We will take her.  Liquidate her, place her under our protection.  Save her from the scourge that is humanity…save her from you, GAVAL.  With or without me...Horde victory.”

     Rage took the Cajun.  He ripped Phasmus’ head off its body with his bare hands and brought the thing to within inches of his own face.  Lavender glowing eyes faced green glowing ones as the two powerful beings came closer than they ever had in a defining moment.

     “Here’s de deal, you sonofa tape-wrapped bitch.  Take it or leave it and ah chase your agents down and eradicate all that’s left of your Horde.  You know ah have de resources to do it.  If I catch you liquidating any of the good people of this nation again, my people will shut you down PERMANENTLY.  This city doesn’t want or need your leadership. Anyone joins the Horde involuntarily anywhere and you get bathed in detergent and escort-shipped to the Vatican for permanent planer exorcism. And believe me, we know how to banish someone from existence.  We’re not as stupid as we pretend to be.  If you and yours go anywhere near Rachel your existence ceases.  Got it?  I love that girl but her life isn’t worth the hundreds more you might ruin.  No one’s is. We’re watching you.

     With that GAVAL threw Phasmus’ head against a stone wall with a splat.  Phasmus stuck to the wall and slowly dropped down before settling a foot from the ground.

     “Don’t I get...to make a counter-offer?” whispered the TapeFiend miserably, but the Slayer was already on his way out.  Bodies of vanquished TapeFiends lined the corridors a quarter of a mile in every direction from Phasmus’ headquarters.  He would be lucky to find a handful left intact.  The minion losses were nearly as bad as those of the bored Canuckalisk rampage during the Great Holy War.  Recovery would take months.

     The TapeFiend’s head rested on the floor, glowering at the ceiling of the catacombs, as his body, or what was left of it, slowly oozed off of the floor and began to craw around sticking itself back together.  After Phasmus finished reassembling himself, he paused a moment to reexamine the situation.

     “The ex-Slayer has fallen…” Phasmus seethed, virtually chanting to himself, “What was good is evil… We have miscalculated… somewhere… This wasn’t supposed to happen…  He has opposed Phasmus & Co… gravely.  His existence has become a liability…  All opposition will be liquidated…  All liabilities must become assets…

     He paused for a moment, narrowing his eyes at the darkness that surrounded him.  “The ex-Slayer can not be attacked directly… No… Never that…  A powerful opponent, backed by many others, and one who may still hold some use…  He must be crushed from the inside out…  Yesss…

      The TapeFiend’s face writhed and twitched as he began a long, low, sinister laugh.  He laughed and writhed as he lurched into the depths of his catacombs to begin the tedious process of reassembling and reanimating the few minions that hadn’t been damaged beyond repair.  He was going to correct the situation.  The first step was to pay a visit to Ms. Rachel Hollis.


Year of the Spectre Episode 3 - Page 4